Sunday, October 30, 2005

Saving the second term

October 30, 2005 : Opinion : Editorials

Saving the second term
CAMP DAVID IS WHERE PRESIDENTS often go to lick their wounds. So President Bush's departure Friday for the Maryland retreat was as predictable as it was necessary; within the span of a week, he has seen a high-ranking administration official indicted for obstructing justice in the Valerie Plame inquiry and his White House counsel forced by critics within his own party to withdraw as a nominee to the Supreme Court.

Bush's horrible week came at an already dismal time for his presidency — even before the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and the Harriet E. Miers debacle, Bush's approval ratings were sinking. The president's legislative agenda is stalled, the war in Iraq is turning into a quagmire and Hurricane Katrina has raised urgent questions about Bush's competence and priorities.

The White House seems bereft of initiative or momentum — on any front. Bush still has three more years in office, but they will be interminable and unproductive unless he revises his game plan and makes some needed substitutions on his team.

For starters, it's time to retire "the architect." Karl Rove may have escaped indictment on Friday, but in a larger sense "Rovism" — the notion of governing from the far right to pander to the party's most active extremists — has been indicted, tried and convicted. Regardless of whether his top political advisor stays on the payroll, Bush needs to dust off his old claim of being "a uniter, not a divider" if he is to have any chance of regaining his political footing and building a positive legacy.

Vice President Dick Cheney's days as a leading voice in this administration should also be numbered. It would be a considerable favor to Bush if Cheney decided to step down from office now, but don't expect that to happen....